Richard Trevino zips around town in a black Camaro with a license plate that reads "proton." It's a symbol of the life-saving treatment that helped him beat prostate cancer -- made even sweeter by the fact that his wife won the car for him.
Richard, 60, who retired from the Air Force in 2004, works for Defense Contracting Management Agency. The agency provides crucial surveillance support to military bases in some of the most dangerous places in the world. When he came home to San Antonio from Afghanistan in 2010, he felt the need to be checked for prostate problems.
Delia, Richard's wife of 41 years, made an appointment for him to see the family doctor. The next thing he knew, he was referred to a urologist because his PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level was high. Next came a biopsy and the news he had cancer.
Fewer side effects
"We took it as a blow," he says. "Delia was especially upset because she has a lot of cancer in her family. But I composed myself and took a step back to look at my choices."
Different physicians recommended different treatments: surgery and brachytherapy, a type of internal radiation. But Richard started hearing about proton therapy from his oldest son, and during some Internet research found out about the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center.
"I was interested because I had heard proton therapy minimized side effects, like ED and incontinence," he says.
People make the difference
When the Trevinos visited the Proton Therapy Center, they were struck by the people they met. "We were amazed at how friendly and helpful everyone was," Delia says. "They made us feel like Richard was the only patient. When we left, he said, 'We have to come back.'"
The first day of February 2011, Richard started seven weeks of proton therapy. He admits he was worried a little at first, but the doctors and nurses at the Proton Therapy Center -- as well as men he met there who were in similar situations -- put him at ease. He had almost no side effects over the course of treatment.
"With proton therapy, we were able to effectively deliver a high dose of targeted radiation directly to Richard's tumor site, which allowed us to spare surrounding healthy tissue from receiving radiation," says Richard's treating physician, Quynh-Nhu Nguyen, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology.
"Richard bonded with the other men, and I bonded with their wives," Delia says. "We all shared information, and the weekly dinners with ProtonPals really helped, too."
When Richard was in treatment, Delia admits she felt a little down. But the pick-me-up she needed came in the form of a contest at a local radio station. First prize was a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro.
"I'm addicted to winning prizes," she explains. "I've won trips to Cancun and Cozumel, and I've won $1,000 a couple of times. Richard had been talking about a new car, but I told him not to buy one just yet."
Delia was positive she would win, and she was right.
"When the disc jockey called me to the front of the crowd to announce I had won, I told him about our experience with cancer and proton therapy," she says. "I knew immediately that I wanted to get customized license plates that said 'proton.'"
Ready for the next adventure
Cancer free and back in Kuwait for his last tour before retiring, Richard is looking forward to the future. He and Delia have a to-do list that includes a cruise to Alaska and trip to Washington, D.C.
"We're continuing with our lives; prostate cancer was just a little hiccup," Richard says. "Thanks to proton therapy, I never missed a beat and can continue to do what I love."